191226ind PlungeFile

A large group runs down Roger Wheeler State Beach as part of last year’s Penguin Plunge for Special Olympics. This year’s event takes place Wednesday at noon.

When the West Bay YMCA closed its doors in April, it left the community without one of its main fitness centers and put the future of its annual events in jeopardy.

While Ocean State Community Wellness has since taken over the facility to fill that hole, the former YMCA’s Polar Bear Plunge that had seen divers brave the frigid temperatures of the waters at the North Kingstown Town Beach each New Year’s morning since 1973 looked like it might have had its last dive.

Then the North Kingstown Recreation Department stepped in.

“With the absence of the local YMCA  one of my concerns was the loss of the Polar Plunge that they hosted at our North Kingstown Town Beach,” North Kingstown Recreation Director Chelsey Dumas-Gibbs said.

The new Polar Plunge will take place Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Town Beach. There is no registration or fees associated to participate, but there is a requested donation of $5 per person to go towards the ReDiscover NK initiative, which focuses on the upkeep and updating of facilities at the Town Beach as well as other playgrounds and fields throughout the town.

For Dumas-Gibbs, taking over the planning of the event presented a bit of a challenge with multiple local communities hosting similar plunges around the same time, and wanting to encourage both in town and out of town participants to come out for it.

“I wanted to attract people from other cities and towns and tried not to compete with them and of course follow the tide schedule,” Dumas-Gibbs said. “It is important to bring people in from other areas to come to our beach campus and see the beauty of our town and our beach.”

She said that while the North Kingstown Town Beach may not be as big or well known as its counterparts in South Kingstown and Narragansett, it is equally as stunning and events such as the Polar Plunge provide a great opportunity to show it off.

Events for the Polar Plunge will begin around 12:30 p.m., with the plunge itself happening at 1 p.m. Small games and a Friendly Polar Bear mascot will be around to provide entertainment and photo opportunities for families, while participants will receive shirts commemorating the dive. Coffee will be available as well as donuts from Allie’s Donuts.

For more information on the Polar Plunge and other upcoming Recreation Department activities, visit northkingstown.org/390/Recreation.

More Plunges in South County

Along with the Polar Plunge in North Kingstown, several similar dives for charity are on the docket for Wednesday in South County. 

In Narragansett, Special Olympics of Rhode Island will be hosting their 44th Annual Penguin Plunge at Roger Wheeler State Park. The plunge, which raises funds to support the 4,000 athletes across Rhode Island who participate in Special Olympics throughout the year, will take place at noon and plungers can register either online at specialolympicsri.org or on site starting at 10 a.m. All plungers must sign a waiver and will be given a wristband to show they’re participating. Children are not encouraged to take part, but can if they’re accompanied by an adult.

Plungers are encouraged to raise $50, but any amount is welcome and donations can also be made on their website.

At the Narragansett Town Beach, the Narragansett Lions Club will hold their annual Pier Plunge to raise money for club causes and charitable work. Registration for the event is $20 and starts at 10 a.m. at the beach’s North Club House, where plungers will embark from for their dive at noon. Prizes will be given out for the best costumes in different age groups. For those still looking to contribute without taking the plunge, donations are accepted on their website, narragansettlionsclub.org.

In Westerly, the WARM Center will host their 14th Annual Penguin Plunge at The Windjammer Surf Bar to raise funds for the center’s effort to combat hunger and homelessness in southern RI and New London County, Connecticut. Registration opens at 11:30 and costs $25 for adults and $15 for children and active-duty military personnel. The price of registration includes a long-sleeve t-shirt and complimentary hot soup from The Windjammer. Plungers can also register ahead of time online at warmcenter.org as well as fill out their waiver which must be brought in before participating. Plungers can also create a fundraising page online through the WARM Center to collect further donations and can take the dive as either a team or individually. The plunge itself will take place at 1 p.m.

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